Finding a solar contractor
Thanks to the Web the process of identifying a solar contractor has
gotten a whole lot easier. One of the most useful sites is
www.findsolar.com. FindSolar.com is a joint partnership
between the American Solar Energy Society, Solar Electric Power
Association, Energy Matters LLC, and the U.S. Department of Energy. It
includes a database by state and county of solar contractors.
The site includes customer reviews and information on the contractor certifications, including
manufacturer certifications, which can be particularly valuable in
separating the wheat from the chaff. The listings are still thin
for some areas of the country (when I looked up Westchester county New
York the closest contractor I found was in New Jersey) but I would
make this the first place to start when trying to identify a solar
Another great place to find solar contractors is
www.nabcep.org. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is a volunteer board of renewable energy stakeholder representatives that includes representatives of the solar industry, NABCEP certificants, renewable energy organizations, state policy makers, educational institutions, and the trades. NABCEP's mission is to support, and work with, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, professionals, and stakeholder to develop and implement quality credentialing and certification programs. The NABCEP web site provides a state-by-state listing of solar contractors who are certified by NABCEP.
The certifications include specific certifications for installing
solar photovoltaic systems and for solar thermal installation.
Another option for finding contractors is to use both the paper or
Web-based yellow pages. For many areas or for older phone books
there is sometimes no listing category for "Solar Energy" so you may
have to try listings such as "Electric Contractors" or "Heating
When selecting a solar contractor here are some key things to look for:
- General Experience - How many years experience does
the company have in installing renewable solar energy systems.
Solar is a growing area and many contractors have limited track
- Local Experience - Has the contractor done solar homes in
your local area. The closer the better. See if any of those
home might allow you to talk to the owner.
- Licensing - Is the contractor licensed in your county and
are they familiar with state and local building regulations that
impact solar installations.
- Certifications - Does the contractor have any specific
manufacturer or industry certifications.
- References - References are invaluable, particularly if
they reflect local work that is similar to what you plan to do.
Don't rely just on written references because too often these might
be from family or friends. Get references you can call and
then don't be shy about calling. That is often the best way to get
the real scoop on a contractor.
- Knowledge of Incentives - Most states and some local
governments provide a number of financial incentives for solar
systems. These can make a huge difference in the cost of your solar
energy system. Find out if the contractor you are considering
is familiar with these incentives. Moreover, find out if they
will apply for the financial incentives for you as part of their
- Warranties - The best contractors warranty their work.
When comparing bidders look to see who provides the strongest
warranty. Check the fine print!